NYT reported A Texas congressman's bill to give the oil industry incentives to increase refinery capacity would gut air-quality protections that currently govern the refining and power industries, Democrats, environmental groups and state and local regulators are charging. The legislation's sponsor, Representative Joe L. Barton, the Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that no new domestic refineries had been completed in the past three decades. "We've got to do something to change the status quo," Mr. Barton added, "and this bill intends to do it but it does it without messing with any environmental laws."
The measure is scheduled for a vote on the House floor Friday. Mr. Barton and leading Democrats predicted a close vote; the bill was approved by Mr. Barton's committee on a voice vote last week. It was introduced within weeks of the passage of major energy legislation that had been a goal of the Republican leadership for two years or more and includes some provisions that were dropped from that bill.
The bill passed 212 to 210But Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in the weeks after the energy bill, and the subsequent rise in gasoline prices created a new political climate, prompting Mr. Barton to reintroduce some of the ideas that had not survived in the earlier legislation.
Mr. Barton's legislation would give regions downwind of polluted areas more time to comply with national standards on ozone levels and would limit the government's ability to prosecute utilities or refineries if they make plant changes that increase their overall emissions of pollutants. It also provides for government reimbursement of an energy company if a private or state lawsuit delays construction of a new refinery.
I hope it encourages refineries to be built somewhere other than the Gulf Coast, so that our gasoline supply would not be able to be severly damaged by a hurricane.In a letter to the House majority and minority leaders Thursday, nine state attorneys general, including Eliot Spitzer of New York, said that enactment of the bill "would be a major setback for air quality across the nation," adding that it "permanently eviscerates key protections of the Clean Air Act" governing refineries and power plants.
Maybe those protections are to blame for the failure of any new refineries to be constructed in the last thirty years..... Its Senate prospects were far more dubious. Legislation containing some of the same provisions failed to clear the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this year. In addition to its other provisions, the legislation directs the Environmental Protection Agency to cut back to 6 from 17 the number of gasoline and diesel fuel blends that states may require as part of their air-pollution control efforts.
That should go a long way to reducing the annual shortage (and price increases) as refineries switch to making the extra blends..... The timing of the Barton legislation, coming so soon after passage of the more comprehensive energy bill and including some provisions eliminated from that measure, prompted Democrats and environmental groups to charge that the Texas Republican was exploiting the hurricanes to help the energy industry shed long-standing environmental obligations.
Or trying to deal with problems highlighted by the hurricanes